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Unions at Hydro-Québec are calling on Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) and its leader, François Legault, to stop brainstorming publicly about the Crown corporation and possibly jeopardizing its strong financial position as a result. They are also trying to convey their opinion to the people of Quebec that the CAQ is playing the sorcerer’s apprentice with the province’s most profitable Crown corporation based on an erroneous study recommending its privatization.

While Legault has portrayed himself to date as a champion of rigour and transparency, he is basing his recent observations on anonymous studies and unscientific analysis results filled with inaccuracies in the interest of promoting the full privatization of Hydro-Québec. Pierre-Guy Sylvestre, an economist on CUPE’s research team, has previously literally torn apart the “study” by Claude Garcia in an analysis published in March 2011 (in French).

“We want the people of Quebec to be aware of the reckless improvisation of François Legault concerning their Crown corporation. The CAQ has come up with a solution that is looking for a problem when this Quebec Crown corporation is already the most profitable of its kind, sells its energy at the lowest rates in the world and enjoys industry-wide recognition of its operation,” stated Sylvestre. “How is it then that Mr. Legault can find so much wrong with Hydro-Québec? Is he looking to ease the way towards privatization?”

As if this were not enough, François Legault has continued to press his haphazard thought processes on the issue. After making the erroneous announcement that he could raise $600 million from a Hydro-Québec sale, he now claims to be ready to play around with legislation in place to protect consumers in order to advance his agenda.

It is to be noted that no credible entity familiar with Hydro-Québec (Régie de l’énergie, union, employer organization, consumer association, environmental group, etc.) has ever concluded that the Crown corporation suffers from 20 per cent overstaffing. How can the CAQ, which does not have a single expert in this industry on its team, consequently arrive at this conclusion?

The unions have also noted that the CAQ’s proposal appears all the more unrealistic in that Hydro-Québec is experiencing a worker shortage: the Crown corporation’s current workforce of 22,500 is inadequate to meet its requirements. “This is why Hydro-Québec has been doing business at considerable expense with hundreds of subcontractors to compensate for the shortage of workers across multiple divisions of the organization,” the CUPE economist added.

The unions maintain that Legault appears to have no understanding of Hydro-Québec. In their opinion, this would explain why the CAQ has yet to express opinions on other energy-related issues, such as the future of the GentillyII nuclear power plant and the financial hole dug through implementation of energy purchasing policies in surplus years.

In recent days, it has been demonstrated that significant savings could be generated by reviewing certain mandates the government has given to the Crown corporation, such as in the area of energy purchasing. Hydro-Québec’s unions consequently encourage the CAQ to look at this solution rather than continuing to focus obsessively on the state of the corporation’s workforce at risk of disrupting its operations.